First Orion of Little Rock said Monday that it will move into a new, six-story office building on Main Street in the Argenta Historic District of North Little Rock.
First Orion is the parent company of PrivacyStar, which makes call- and text-blocking applications for smartphones. The company is headquartered in the Museum Building in the River Market District of Little Rock. It moved there from Conway in 2015.
"Central Arkansas is an inspiring place for us to be," Charles D. Morgan, CEO of First Orion, said. "We are helping to transform the region into a prominent technology hub and we are honored to be such a big part of the Argenta Plaza. Not only is First Orion building technology, but we are also building careers."
The new building, estimated to cost around $10 million, will sit adjacent to Argenta Plaza, a planned public space on Main Street between and Fifth and Sixth streets. At 60,000 SF, the First Orion building will provide space for the firm's operations but also leaseable space for retailers and at least one restaurant. The company has hired architect Stephen Rousseau and contractor VCC, both of Little Rock, and plans to break ground in the spring.
The move comes as First Orion again runs out of office space. Morgan said the company has more than 100 employees now but is aiming reach 300. With the Argenta project, First Orion is aiming to put down more permanent roots.
"We are planning on building a building here that will allow us to grow to over 300 without moving every three years," he said. "So far we have not made it in a location over about two-and-a-half years and we are finding ourselves in that same shape. So we kinda want to make a more permanent home, and we have chosen this location."
Morgan, the former CEO of publicly traded data services company Acxiom Corp. of Conway, is involved in two Little Rock tech firms, privately held First Orion and publicly traded Invuo Corp., where he is a director. With the help of a $1.75 million grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Inuvo moved its headquarters from New York to Conway in 2013.
In Conway, Inuvo shared space with First Orion at 1111 Main St. But after adding dozens of employees, the firms went shopping for more room, and two years later announced that each would lease 13,000-SF offices in the Museum Building in Little Rock.
Inuvo, an internet marketing company, will remain in the Museum Building.
In North Little Rock, First Orion initially plans to occupy the top three stories of its new building, leaving the first and second floors — including about 15,000 SF of office space — available to lease. But the company expects to grow, eventually occupying all the building's available office space, according to Aaron Peeples, director of facilities for First Orion, which also has offices in Seattle, Dallas and London.
The project is a big boost to Argenta Plaza, the plans for which North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith unveiled in September. Plans for the public space include a free-standing water wall, fountains, an audiovisual screen wall and a "front porch" with porch swings.
The North Little Rock city council is expected to vote Monday night whether to appropriate $4 million for construction of the plaza, designed by Taggart Architects of North Little Rock and DLand Studio of New York City. Groundbreaking is set for early 2018, with Alessi Keyes Construction of North Little Rock leading the project.
"We believe the Argenta Plaza will be a community where big, brave ideas are given the chance to grow unfettered," Smith said. "First Orion is a shining example of our state's best and brightest creating technologies that make the world a better place."
The First Orion building isn't the only office space planned for the Argenta Plaza. The city plans to build a three-story building to the north of the plaza that will include the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association, the North Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau and Taggart Architects, which is designing the building. That project is also scheduled to begin in the spring.
Argenta Plaza (Public Space) Video